Here is the story I just filed for tomorrow’s paper.
This year’s South Sound recreational salmon fishing seasons will be nearly identical to last year. That is the assessment of fish managers from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife after they and tribal co-managers Wednesday agreed on fishing seasons for 2011.
The seasons were finalized during the meeting of the Pacific Fishery Management Council in San Mateo, Calif. The agreement sets dates and regulations for salmon fishing in Puget Sound, the ocean off Washington’s coast and the Columbia River.
“The seasons throughout Puget Sound pretty much replicate last year’s seasons,” said department director Phil Anderson.
“I don’t think we made any changes to Marine Area 11 (Tacoma) and 13 (South Sound) seasons,” said Steve Thiesfeld, Puget Sound salmon manger for the department.
On the Green River, there will not be a chinook season, but there will be an early opening to access the more than 2.1 million pink salmon expected to return this year.
Also, the department will require anglers to use barbless hooks on the Nisqually River.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to increase the survival of the fish we release. There is a benefit to doing that,” Thiesfeld said.
“All in all, it’s a pretty decent package,” Anderson said.
One fishery still to be resolved is the Skokomish River. Marine and river fisheries last year exceeded the allowable catch, Anderson said. The department and the Skokomish Tribal Nation are still negotiating how many fish can be taken during the sport and tribal seasons.
For the ocean fisheries, the council adopted a recreational chinook quota of 33,700 fish despite an expected increase in abundance. That is 27,300 fewer fish than last year’s quota. Anderson said the 2011 quota is just 7,000 fish lower than the number actually caught in 2010.
The lower quota is necessary to protect wild salmon stocks and meet conservation goals, he said.
While anglers will have fewer fish to catch, fishery managers are expecting the average size to be larger because of the number of 4- and 5-year-old fish returning to spawn.
The council also adopted a quota of 67,200 coho for this year’s recreational ocean fishery, the same as last year’s quota.
The ocean season opens June 18 with a fishery for hatchery chinook in all ocean areas. The fishery will run seven days a week, with a daily limit of two salmon, through June 25 or until 4,800 hatchery chinook are retained.
Recreational fisheries for chinook and hatchery coho will continue June 26. Anglers will be allowed to retain one chinook as part of a two-salmon daily limit. Anglers also are allowed one additional pink salmon each day in marine areas 3 and 4.
The Buoy 10 fishery in the Colmbia River will be open for chinook and hatchery coho Aug. 1-28. Anglers will have a two-salmon daily limit, one of which may be a chinook. From Aug. 29 through Dec. 31, anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery coho, but must release chinook.
The lower Columbia River upstream to Bonneville Dam will be open for chinook and hatchery coho Aug. 1-Dec. 31. Anglers will be able to keep one adult chinook as part of their two-fish daily bag limit through Sept. 9. Beginning Sept. 10, chinook retention will only be allowed upstream of the Lewis River, but up to two adult chinook may be retained.